The library media center at my school, Richmond Elementary in Richmond Vermont, has received an enormous gift: a pilot year with a flexible schedule. It’s the ideal situation for school library work: an opportunity for collaborative teaching and creative learning far beyond what fits into a fixed schedule of once-a-week library classes. Please join me for the journey.
I consider myself and my elementary school very fortunate to have had this year with a flexible schedule. Going into the 2016-2017 school year, it looks like the library will be able to continue with this model.
A few logistical details helped get this model off the ground. First, I had an administrator who understood the library program and what it could offer for students with a flexible schedule. Many other librarians have written about the need for good communication with your administrators: @jenniferlagarde has been writing for years that librarians should know “what keeps your principal up at night” and should make sure principals know how the library fits into solving those problems. This kind of two-way communication was critical when it came time to ask for the change to a flexible schedule.
Second, my students already have six “specials” blocks per week, enough for classroom teachers to have a preparation period every day without including a weekly visit to the library in the Unifed Arts schedule. They attend Art, Music, Spanish, and Enrichment classes once a week and Physical Education classes twice a week. As my district has increased the time required for mathematics and writing in particular, teachers have been looking for ways to spend more time with their students in their classrooms. A collaborative library model frees up one period a week for classroom time, plus it allows me to go to classrooms to teach or co-teach research, citation, and technology lessons along with teachers. This gives students more learning time and more teacher access, because both the classroom teachers and I are there for follow up on the lesson during writing or social studies time.
At the conclusion of my library’s Year of Change, I would encourage school librarians in general and elementary librarians in particular to push for a flexible schedule. It’s the best practice for school library work, and it’s best for students. Thank you for joining me for the journey.